Mike Reiss, one of the screenwriters of the cartoon series, came to Moscow to talk about the success of the film at the Synergy Global Forum 2018 at the Olympic stadium. In an interview with Sputnik, he explained why he adored his work, what they would never joke about in The Simpsons, and how there was a misunderstanding between him and Russian journalists.
Sputnik: So is this your first time in Russia?
Mike Reiss: No, this is my fourth visit and, in fact, I was in Moscow in July. I came to see the World Cup.
Sputnik: And how do you like it?
Mike Reiss: I love it here. I am very happy and, also, my wife and I came here 20 years ago to Moscow and it is a completely different city. It was interesting then and historic, but now it is just fun. It is so fun and tourist-friendly. I love coming here.
Sputnik: So, about The Simpsons. The Simpsons is one of the longest shows to have ever existed on TV. How do you feel it has changed over the years? What is the difference between an episode 20 years ago and an episode airing now?
Sputnik: I would like to ask you about this. There are only 7 seasons of Futurama, for example, and now we have 30 seasons of The Simpsons. Why is that? Why is this exact show still popular?
Mike Reiss: Nobody could ever figure it out; I couldn't figure it out. And then the one thing I realised, which was so obvious nobody realised — it was [that] people watch a show about a family. That is all there is to it. It doesn't make sense, but I think everyone has a family and everyone can watch The Simpsons and go ‘Oh, that's like my family!' Not just the animated shows, the regular TV shows that last the longest time are just family shows. It is nothing more profound; nothing trickier than that. People like a family show.
Sputnik: Do you feel like it became a little bit like Santa Barbara, being so long and about a family? Have you ever thought about that?
Sputnik: So working on the show is difficult, not as fun as we see it on TV?
Mike Reiss: Well, no one would do it for free, that's all I can say. It is very pleasant, they are very nice people. We have all been working together for 10 or 15 years. We all respect each other. There is no friction, there is no jealousy. We are all just working together to make the best show. So I love it, I love my job.
Sputnik: Do you feel like this is your family, the people you work with?
Mike Reiss: Yes. If you can believe that after 30 years I love going in to work every week. I love it. I love to see those guys. They are so nice.
Sputnik: Do you sometimes feel that you have to stop it, maybe that the show has limits, when you think: ‘Well, now, that's all. I don't want to do it anymore' or ‘people don't like it anymore'?
Mike Reiss: What is good at the show, I mean, we never expected it to last this long. And the show will end when people will stop watching it, but in America, it is still a very big hit. It is still popular. And we don't want it to end. But what we do with the show — we have about 20 writers — is nobody works more than they can contribute. So, I only work one day a week. I only go in every Wednesday because that is all the good ideas I have, this one day a week. And some people work 3 days a week, but almost no one puts in five days a week.
Sputnik: It sounds like the best job ever!
Mike Reiss: Yeah, it's the best job. I mean it is good for me, but it is good for the show too, that I am not going in there tired or just pushing, working, straining too hard to get ideas.
Sputnik: The Simpsons usually talks about current events and invites famous personalities onto the show. Who else will we see in future? Maybe you can share that with us?
Mike Reiss: I can never keep it straight. I am sorry, because we make the show a year in advance and I don't even know when you see it in Russia. You probably see it a year after that. I don't think you get our episodes as soon as they are new. We work so far ahead I can't remember who's coming up soon. But we keep finding the right people for the right shows.
Sputnik: Do you have any taboos, maybe themes you would never touch in the show; something you don't want to talk about?
Sputnik: How do you feel about the Simpsons Movie, do you think it was a good idea to create a big film?
Mike Reiss: It was something that we didn't want to do. They had to ask the writers for 15 years, they kept saying: ‘Will you make a movie? Will you make move?' And we didn't want to do it and finally, one day, we just sat down, the writers came in on a Sunday, and we said: ‘Let's see if we can think of a movie'. We thought for three hours. We thought of the whole movie in one afternoon. And so we made the movie; it was a very big hit. And most important was that the fans of the show liked the movie. So we just keep waiting. Now it's been, probably 12 years, I think since that, and we won't make another movie until we have a really great idea.
Sputnik: So you have plans for it?
Mike Reiss: That's it. I think anytime we would go to the studio and say: ‘We want to make another Simpsons movie', they'd say ‘Great!' It made a lot of money and it was good for the show, but you know, it has been twelve years and we haven't had that great idea just yet.
Sputnik: I suppose you don't know how many seasons we will see?
Mike Reiss: We will keep going. I have no idea. We are still one of the top; we are one of the most successful shows on our network, on the Fox Network. So there is no reason to stop, there is no reason to stop. Again, when the viewers get tired of watching, we will stop making the show.
Mike Reiss: ‘Masha and the Bear'? I love ‘Masha and the Bear'!
Sputnik: Some experts from other countries said that there is propaganda in the show. What do you think about that?
Mike Reiss: I don't. Do you see that?
Mike Reiss: Well, I don't know what they are talking about. I have only seen a few [episodes]. You know, they may show it in America, but I was at the animation festival in Bosnia, and they showed ‘Masha and the Bear' and I said: ‘Well, that's the best cartoon! Let's give the prize to that.' And they said: ‘It gets the prize every year.' And I just think it is classic. I think it is one of the all-time greatest cartoons.
Sputnik: And other Russian cartoons? Have you seen any?
Mike Reiss: I probably have seen [scattered] cartoons. I know when I was a kid they used to show a lot of cartoons from Eastern Europe, from Yugoslavia. I know, I have seen some Russian cartoons — they weren't 'Masha and the Bear'. I don't remember seeing anything that made me laugh, that was funny like that.
Sputnik: In one of the interviews for Russian media you said that…
Mike Reiss: Oh, here it comes!
Sputnik:…you may move to Russia someday.
Mike Reiss: I did not say that!
Sputnik: I was sure that you didn't say that!
Mike Reiss: I did not. It was funny, someone asked me two questions and I gave two short answers and they made a long article out of it and everything was wrong in the article.
Sputnik: Yes, I was sure that it was that way. So it was just a misunderstanding?
Mike Reiss: It was a misunderstanding. I mean the interviewer, I guess she has asked about Steven Segal moving here. All I was saying is what a lot of Americans like to say which is 'you want to have an option maybe‘. You know, many, especially in Hollywood, people go 'Oh, if Donald Trump is re-elected, I am moving to Canada‘. You know, I could be happy somewhere else in the world, but I think I would go somewhere where they speak English, [like] Canada or Australia. I do like Russia and I mentioned in the article that I am half-Russian.
Sputnik: Do you know any Russian words?
Mike Reiss: 'Spasibo' and 'Nyet'. That pretty much gets me through the day.
Sputnik: I see. Thank you very much and nice to meet you!
Mike Reiss: Thank you. Nice to meet you!